The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Marlins Stadium Financing Update

If you were able to manage your way through Marlins stories about the team bus driver (who isn't even a baseball fan, mind you) and Josh Willingham’s chances with the team this year, you might have found this little gem about the Marlins' stadium financing plans.

Past attempts which have involved the club’s leadership at the time meeting with state legislators have ultimately failed (in the sense that financing for a new stadium hasn’t been secured – whether or not you consider that a failure is a matter of opinion).

Stadium proponents must be encouraged that it seems that legislators (even Governor Bush) are generally encouraged with the plan that the Marlins, the City of Miami, and the County are presenting. Some of the quotes surrounding this enthusiasm are at the very least interesting:
''I've got an open mind about this,'' Bush said. ``I think the willingness of the community to support this to the extent they have is a very positive sign.''
Pardon me, Governor? Apparently I missed the election or other public forum where the community expressed “willingness” to support this project. I’m sure that some of the folks who are involved in construction, as well as city leaders are in favor of the plan (particularly as long as they’re at the front of the line for choice comp seats – see writeups of the 2003 World Series for details). But other than that, it sure doesn’t seem that there’s an overwhelming public outcry to build this stadium for the team. Sure, there’s general support for the ballclub, but I don’t think anyone is lining up to donate to the cause.

There also seems to be general enthusiasm – at least in the media and from law makers – about the potential economic benefits of the proposed new stadium, but this line from the story is probably the most telling:
Arriola said the new stadium would generate $8 million annually in sales taxes, but he had no financial analysis models to give to Lee when the Senate president requested them.
As publicly financed stadiums have taken hold in America over the past few decades, it has become abundantly clear that local governments are not concerned as to whether these projects are good long term investments. Qualitative things, like making sure that the city in question remains (or becomes) a “major league city” is important. What’s often overlooked, as is painfully obvious here, are the financials. Even the financials for the ballclub are not on the table. While the use of the public money for the stadium will force the Marlins to stay in town for an extended period of time (thirty years or so), the Marlins are under no sort of obligation to transfer their incremental revenue streams into anything related to the ballclub.

In fact, my suspicious nature about these things forces me to assume that once the park is up and running we’ll start to hear a lot about how the Marlins payroll isn’t increasing anytime soon because ownership needs to use the extra revenue to recover from the years of eight figure losses in their previous ballpark. If that’s the case, there’s even less of a point for the city, county, or state to contribute to building this ballpark. Allowing the status quo, as a middle to low level player in baseball’s financial markets, to persist isn’t going to turn the Marlins into the Yankees or Red Sox or some other perennial contender. It’s going to allow them to continue to exist and to occasionally put together a brilliant run that obscures the penny-pinching and pocket lining in most years.

That reality is easily overlooked now as the club has been on a tremendous run of making shrewd moves and getting lucky with payroll. Eventually the Miguel Cabrera’s and Dontrelle Willis’s of the world, who are grossly underpaid and annually outperform their contracts, will leave the club in disgust as they see lesser players on other teams be paid more and go through less acrimonious contract renewals before they reach arbitration eligibility. And if other players, who are arbitration and free agent eligible, start to fail to exceed the value of their contracts regularly the club will be in even more trouble still.

It seems the club is employing what we here at The Book of Mike like to refer to as the “Field of Dreams” philosophy. Sure, in the Kevin Costner movie, it worked out great for Ray and everyone was happy in the end. But in real life it’s not always the best course of action to expect that “if you build it, they will come.” Sometimes, especially when you’re spending other people’s money, as various levels of government officials are planning to do here, it’s a good idea to have some analysis and a fact or two to support the wild claims and exorbitant spending that you’re planning.

If the funding for the stadium gets put together, hopefully it will work out for Miami and the Marlins like things did for Ray in the movie. More likely than not though, if history has taught us anything, we’ll end up with a lot of land that could otherwise have been used for some greater good or we’ll be looking at a dormant monument which took funds away from something else that would have bettered society to a greater degree.


  • At 3:37 AM, March 13, 2005, Blogger yoni cohen :: said…


    Wanted to invite you to participate in the first ever and first annual NCAA Tournament Bracket for Bloggers (only), a "Bloggers Bracket" if you will.

    The site -- including the "Tournameng Genie" is already live. After creating an account, you'll be able to play around with the Genie (you won't be dissapointed) and, after the Selection Special, enter your picks.

    Check it out at


    Yoni Cohen,

    P.S. If you like what you see, please add a link to the bloggers bracket on your site. I'd love for it become a blogosphere-wide contest.
    P.P.S. Please kindly update your blogroll link to my site. has moved to Thanks!


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